Is your art business really a commodity business? Is what you are packaging and selling just like ten-thousand other online art stores?
The worst thing an art business can do is be just like everyone else. And the worst reason your customer can have for buying your product is that it’s the cheapest. Live by the cheapest price, die by the cheapest price.
There are many, many product categories that are commodity items. My definition of a commodity is something that can basically be bought and sold by the pound from a half dozen or more companies.
This is why I dislike the big art sites like Etsy and eBay. They make you look like you are selling the same thing everyone else is selling. It’s hard to set yourself apart on those sites. I don’t recommend to my clients that they sell their art there.
The Pathetic Life of the Art Business Lowest Bidder
Being a ‘commodity’ is the pits. The worst situation you can be in is to sell something that’s readily available from dozens of other people.
It’s easy to think customers only want the cheapest price, but that’s only true if nobody gives them a reason to pay extra and get more. A good Internet example: America On Line has done a very admirable job of packaging their service such that it can’t be directly compared to other Internet Service Providers. Features like AOL Instant Messenger have proprietary features that other providers can’t duplicate. AOL has always made it very easy to install their software and they’ve distributed their CD’s to just about every living creature in North America. This is how they’ve maintained a price over $20 while many of their competitors went broke trying to do it for free.
What you sell should be re-packaged and re-invented to differentiate it from competitive products and make apples-to-apples comparisons difficult or impossible.
Case in point: Starbucks, AOL, and Microsoft are ALL in commodity markets but have managed to re-define the rules such that they are relatively immune from price competition.
And I can assure you that there are THOUSANDS of small businesses as well, who use the same shrewd tactics to sidestep the whole issue of ‘commoditization.’
It’s the same thinking process that AOL, Microsoft, McDonalds and Starbucks all use – seemingly invincible companies that dominate fiercely competitive commodity markets.
Let’s, once again, take AOL as a brief example. In the early Internet days you could become an Internet Service Provider with a few thousand dollars of cash and some phone lines. Some ISP’s even gave away their services for free. But AOL maintained a price of $23/month – just for dial-up.
Now the landscape has changed greatly for ISP’s and AOL has had a harder time competing. However… the reasons for their initial success are still worth studying.
How did they do it? Because AOL was fundamentally different than all other ISP’s. They have FORCED themselves to come up with unique ways of making themselves non-interchangeable with others. They have AOL instant messenger, all kinds of online communities, and proprietary software. And once you’re on AOL, it’s hard to get off.
You can lift ideas right out of AOL and Microsoft and cleverly apply them to your business, so that apples-to-apples comparisons to your competitors are difficult or impossible.
Make Your Online Art Business Different
When you are an artist running a small art business – then you MUST do this. *It’s not an option.* When you do, it makes everything you do vastly easier and more effective.
That’s the main focus in my Smart Art Marketing newsletter. I have a very specific terminology and strategy for re-inventing your business and making it clearly stand out from your rivals.